WEST JORDAN — Court hearings for a 14-year-old boy charged with shooting another teenager outside a middle school will remain open after a resolution was reached Thursday.
Attorneys for the boy withdrew a motion filed last week asking that all hearings related to the case be closed to the public, opting instead to petition to close certain portions of the hearings related to the boy's mental health and competency. Third District Juvenile Judge Tupakk Renteria will then decide whether or not to grant each request.
Under state law, hearings for juveniles facing charges for serious crimes are presumptively open in Utah. A specific and compelling reason must be proved in order to close them.
A coalition of Utah media — including the Deseret News, KSL, Salt Lake Tribune, KSTU, KTVX, KUTV, and the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists — filed a joint motion opposing efforts to close the hearings. The issue was to be argued during a hearing Thursday.
Attorney Austin Riter, who represented the media, said following the hearing that state lawmakers have specified that the public has an interest and a right to know what happens in hearings related to serious juvenile crimes.
"The statute is on the media's side, that's why we're enforcing it, and that's what the judge agreed with," Riter said.
According to police, the 14-year-old and Joshua Cordova, who goes to Hillcrest High School, met for a fight on the north end of the Union Middle School grounds, 615 E. 8000 South, just as class was letting out on Oct. 25.
The teen is charged with shooting Cordova, 16, in the head, and then shooting him again after he fell to the ground. A teacher who was outside the school when the shooting happened told detectives at least three shots were fired, and the teen attempted to fire a fourth round but the gun jammed, charging documents state.
Cordova survived the shooting.
The Deseret News has opted not to name the 14-year-old at this time. He will make his initial appearance in court, now twice delayed, on Dec. 1.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill has said he will seek to have the teenager certified to face the charges in adult court. The boy is charged in juvenile court with attempted murder, a first-degree felony; discharge of a firearm causing serious injury, a first-degree felony; discharge of a firearm, a third-degree felony; and possession of a gun on school property, a class A misdemeanor.
Riter on Thursday emphasized the importance of journalists fighting to maintain public access to courtrooms.
"Each time they do that, each time they educate the public and the participants and obtain a favorable ruling like in this case, we build precedent for the next case and the next case, so that the public can participate in these proceedings like the Legislature intended," Riter said.
Utah could see several high-profile cases in juvenile court in the coming months.
In December, a competency hearing is scheduled for a West Valley teen charged with raping and strangling his 12-year-old neighbor when he was 15. The boy turns 17 this month.
Charges are still pending for three juveniles accused of stealing a car and hitting and killing West Valley police officer Cody Brotherson as they fled on Nov. 6. Brotherson was attempting to place a spike strip to stop the car when he was struck, according to police. The suspects were arrested and booked into a juvenile detention facility.
On Monday, a 16-year-old boy was arrested in Orem after police said he stabbed five classmates in a locker room at Mountain View High School, then turned the knife on himself. The 16-year-old and all five victims survived the stabbings. Alpine School District officials said the 16-year-old, who has been booked into a juvenile detention facility, was a straight-A student with no disciplinary record. The boy had been home-schooled prior to enrolling at the high school in August.
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